Barbecue culture in the Lone Star state has never been hotter— literally. After Texas Monthly recently released its annual list of the state's best barbecue joints, smoked meat enthusiasts have been road tripping the state's barbecue belt to queue up for 'cue despite record temperatures. These days though, it's not unusual for committed carnivores to find much more going on than just BBQ's holy trinity of brisket, sausage and ribs. The scene has transformed in Texas in recent years as pitmasters from San Antonio to Houston are experimenting in all sorts of ways with fire and smoke.
The Granary 'Cue & Brew, which opened in San Antonio's historic Pearl Brewery district in 2012, was one of the first spots to add a heavy dash of culinary license to their wood- and fire-fueled craft. Though the lunchtime market menu focuses on two- or three-meat plates with fairly classic sides, daily specials like pastrami ribs and smoked pork belly keep patrons on their toes. Once the midday masses clear out of the rustic wood-paneled dining room, the kitchen starts prepping for dinner dishes like smoked duck with mole negro, beef clod with coffee quinoa crunch and grilled quail vindaloo with pickled lime yogurt and puffed red rice.
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"Having not come up in barbecue restaurants, I had an intense curiosity to explore the idea of barbecue using non-traditional ingredients and modern techniques," says Tim Rattray, who owns The Granary with his brother Alex. "We got some push back from purists, but overall the response was very good and supportive as we explored smoke and fire."